It was on your birthday night that everything changed, it was that night that something died, or someone died I can’t remember; but I can remember thinking about the concept of death, the finality of it; it was not a full stop that still had some more words to be added or a few sentences and maybe a few more paragraphs; no! It is simply an end and which by no means justified its abruptness. It was the way you looked at him, your eyes adoring him on every side as he chose his words in lazy precision; as he picked out his words and smile filled his handsome face as he looked back at you; it was your friends telling me that I was not welcomed with their smile filled with a respectful pretense; it was their friendly unfriendliness that killed it, that passive warning that rang with the jokes that they cracked on that dinner table; that must have been it.
It must have been the tell-tale ‘you are not wanted’ sign that they all had on their faces; not that they put it on as a cloth that could have been visible to the eyes of any passerby or even you, it was just that I am self-aware, the type girls get irritated with easily because of his oversensitivity, I am never oblivious of the wiles and the jibes that people throw; Sometimes I would hide under the cloak of assumption and assume away timeless possibilities and probabilities, the mathematics of it in its entirety. I would try to insert my soul into the bodies of the individuals around me and watch the drama of their lives unfold, I would assume what I wanted them to assume about me and I would attach their giggles to the insecurities that I was feeling at that moment and I would hate them for laughing at me. So let me be clear when I say that I am assuming that all your friends wanted him to win you in our contest for your heart after all he was the Mister Right and also an underdog and I was the other guy, the random other guy who would never stop being random.
For as long as I can remember I have always been the other guy, no matter how random the relationship I wanted was going to be, the label always seemed to attach itself to me like a leech even on times when all I wanted was just being a mere friend, I would gradually metamorphose into the other guy role. I remember back in the university when the first event occurred before the stereotyping started; she was beautiful, tall and dark just like you, I would not shut up about her, I kept telling everybody how perfect she was, how her cheek bones were high up just like Mickey Mouse’s, how everything about her body was just in the right proportion, how she was my dream girl come true, how her skin glowed in the dark like a glowworm, how existence suddenly started making sense because I had found her, how she was god-sent; yes! I get like that whenever I fall in love. Then came the moment when I asked her out and she tells me that she is in a relationship and she had known the guy since forever; I imagined ‘forever’ to mean that the guy probably met her when she was still wearing diapers.
I didn’t let her go despite these, not that she was mine to let go anyway. We became friends, closer than friends actually and gradually I graduated to the position of the other guy for I believed then that one day she may actually leave her main guy and be with me but I was wrong. The day the chicken went to roost however was the day she tells me that she couldn’t keep up the charade any longer; the insecurity that my presence in her life was making her boyfriend feel, was damaging to their relationship.
Being the other guy and never the main guy could be very damaging to morale especially on days like the valentine when everyone is exchanging gifts and the only thing you get to exchange a gift with, is your television and your DVD player as you slot in the discs and it gives you back quality movies.
Those were the trying times, times you wished any of the girls that were in your life would do better than the lousy cards that they always gave you. It was unfortunate; you belonged to the clique of good boys, the nerdy types, and the bright future goofy types that nobody wanted to date now but fast forward five more years the hot cakes in the marriage market. I remember Ebun and her perfectly shaped round body; her pointed nose like a snooker stick tip and the pitiful way she had said those words to me as though dating me would have been some sort of community service she could render, given the right amount of money or if she were to be under sort of alcoholic influence or weedy highness. “Sorry Debola, You are a good guy, but I still have a lot of fun years ahead of me, I am not ready for somebody like you; maybe in a few years I could date you but not now, not today” someone like me? Are you serious? Don’t people like me have fun? so in summary, I could have been her Mister Right but I wasn’t good enough to be Mister Right now. So it didn’t beat the imagination when Ebun, around June last year walks up to me and tells me she wants to date me and I felt like I was in a dreamland for those really short moments when I thought she was mine until she got married by December of the same year without telling me which showed that I was the other guy after all.
Those were the hurtful years but on the night of your birthday I had to relive them all over again as I sat down at the other side of the dinner table at the fancy restaurant that hosted us, the round revolving table that had each and every one of your friends speaking in turns about the things we liked most about you and the things that we would love you to change, it was like the secondary school birthday parties where our teenage wiles reeled our minds and we played games as stupid as truths or dare. I watched your eyes blink as your friends spoke about you; there were too many good things to say about you; there was never time enough to say them; even the laughter in their voices was story enough because it meant that you have affected them beyond what they could have imagined; I stifled my laughter when it suddenly occurred to me that my heart may be too advanced to withstand the concept of teenage romance and friendship for I was at least three years older than the oldest of your friends that were seated at the table. I had the opportunity to draw first blood and say kind words about you but the words were clogged in my throat as I watched your Mister Right give you a gentle reprimand for something that you said to him playfully; my heart was fried, words which easily played around my lips were gone and lost simply because my mind was in a conflict, the friendly eyes that beheld me didn’t seem so friendly of a sudden so I gave up my chance to talk.
When it was the turn of Mister Right to talk, everybody gave him the audience simply because they wanted you to notice that he was your Mister Right and nobody else, I was glad that I had not made a fool out of myself, it would have been funny being that the main guy was there and I being the other guy was talking about how much I adored his girl. How would I have said that I fell in love with you the first time I saw you? How would I have said that I fell because you challenged me, how would I have said that you are the first girl that is not intimidated by me; by my success, by the things I had achieved; how would I have told them that your face reminded me of the home that I wanted to build, the peace of it, the beauty of it, the unevenness of it, the perfection of my imperfectness, how? Who would have believed me when your friends were already making me uncomfortable and laughing at the various degrees of transition that my face was encountering as your Mister Right went on recounting how innocently he was going on his own the first time that he saw you and how his life has changed since that moment.
It was not his story that broke my heart; it was my remembrance of the days when you spoke about him, the days when we had our long aimless walks after your surprising visits to my humble abode; how you said those words about him being special and sweet and how I knew that the bitterness of my past relationships still had a strong root on my inside. Sitting at that dinner table and listening to him speak; I could feel my heart literally shedding tears because he was everything you said he was and probably so much more; of a sudden, I didn’t dislike him as I wanted to any longer because I fell in love with him on your behalf and prayed that you guys should last long together. It was instantaneous how I fell into the realization that your friends were not bad people but I should not have come to that dinner with you guys however fancy the restaurant could have been because that was what drew me and the opportunity to see you again Biola.
After-all, I was the unknown, the intruder, a thief that was here to arrest and steal their friend which was you from them; it was normal that their defense mechanism was swung into motion. Now that all has changed, I am not sure I know what that change means, I am not sure that I can stay friends with you and share my deepest secrets with you like I’m used to; I’m not sure I can stay up late waiting for your replies via Whatsapp, I’m not sure what my life will become without you but I know what it feels like right now without you; it feels empty like Pi on a shipwreck with a fully grown leopard in the middle of the pacific; hopeless.
I had become team Mister Right and hence my days of being the other guy were just not numbered but should be termed as over. Sometimes I would remember his smile, there was always pain in his eyes throughout that night; something was eating him up and I could bet on it that I was probably a part of it. I refuse to be the other guy any longer; if I’m not the main guy then I can’t be the other guy.